This paper was presented at the PCA/ACA national conference in Washington, D.C. on March 28, 2013.
This project stemmed out of my love of the Harry Potter series, my interest in popular culture, and an interest in consumer behavior. This project is the topic of my Masters thesis, and so is a work in progress. It will be presented in its final form at the beginning of May in my thesis defense. However, my first screening of this paper occurred on March 28, and this was the idea as it was presented for this occasion. Of course, it has (and will continue) undergone much revision and tweaking since this abstract was submitted, and will continue to evolve over the following weeks.
This project will explore the manner in which the traditions of America’s Christian religious roots have infiltrated its popular culture, using the Harry Potter franchise as a specific example. The Potter series’ staggering popularity—a worldwide literary phenomenon and prompter of “Pottermania” in the United States —suggests that something within the series clearly resonates with readers. This project proposes that what makes this series so popular can be found by examining the prevalence of religious motifs within J.K. Rowling’s work. In essence, Harry Potter remains so popular because of America’s unconscious love of and familiarity with themes of faith, love, sacrifice, destiny/prophecy, sin, and redemption that appear within the books; Americans also identify with the series’ symbols, motifs, and characterization that coincide with the Old Testament and the story of Christ. This project will explore these repeated patterns of Christianity within the seven novels and examine their relevance in a study of popular culture—why do Americans love the things they do? How do capitalism and religion (namely, Christianity) serve to reinforce one another? Does Harry Potter reflect and thus support a Christian ethos, or does the series serve to subvert it? Can it do both simultaneously? Are there larger frameworks at play defining what Americans consume? By pursuing this topic, I will determine if the ubiquity of the inherent Christian influence within American culture heavily influences what Americans as consumers choose to consume, and why.